Cable TV suspended in parts of Pakistan; Senate okays DTH plan


MUMBAI: Cable operators have suspended their services in different areas of Pakistan after unfruitful dialogue with the government on the postponement of Direct-To-Home (DTH) licences to be auctioned tomorrow.

Around three million consumers use Indian DTH, and the government plans to eliminate it through local facilities and save about PKR 24 billion in capital flight to India. Estimates of DTH users range from 70,000 to 2.5 million with most of them concentrated in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi.

Cable services in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Gujarat and Multan have been suspended. In Balochistan's capital Quetta, however, cable TV was still running, Pakistani newspapers reported.

Pakistan's Senate panel on information, broadcasting and national heritage has asked Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to proceed with its decision to launch an indigenous Direct to Home (DTH) television system.

Opposing the move, operators started suspending their services in various parts following their complete strike call from Monday evening. Cable Operators' Association staged a protest at the press club announcing closure of the services.

The Senate meeting, chaired by senator Kamil Ali Agha, was informed by PEMRA chairman Absar Alam that it held successful meeting with the operators and decided that Pakistani DTH would be launched in November 2017 giving them time for system upgradation. Still, they announced shutdown of cable, he added.

Alam said that operators had no problem with illegal Indian DTH and demanded to lift ban on Indian content. But, they want the PEMRA DTH plan abolished which was unconvincing. Alam said PEMRA had taken concrete steps to stop Indian content and Indian movies on the cable.

Earlier, finance minister Ishaq Dar reportedly refused to agree to operators' demand and decided that the DTH auction will be held as per schedule on Wednesday. The successful bidder however would start its operation from November next year.

Not budging from their positions, operators are now likely to go on strike for an indefinite period. Cable Operators Association chairman Khalid Arain, on 15 November, said that DTH launch was not justified since the cable operators invested billions in converting the analogue cable system into the digital one. Arain said they needed at least three years to create awareness among the people about cable digitalisation.

Unlike the analogue connections, DTH service is a digital platform that transfers channels directly into homes from satellite through small dish antennas. The service is reliable and allows consumers to view high-definition video. The quality of channels at the end on the bandwidth does not diminish such as those on cable.

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